What is a Meerkat?

The meerkats are also known as suricates and they are small mammals that are an integral part of the family of mongooses. There are several different types and species of the animal Meerkat that tend to inhabit certain locations. One of the most common locations of the Meerkats is in the Kalahari Desert that is situated in Southern Africa. Here we are going to have a discussion about the animal in proper detail so that you can have an idea about the different details. Here is an important fact about the meerkat animal: a group of meerkats is known as a ‘gang’ or a ‘mob’.


Description of a Meerkat Animal

In the details about the description of meerkats, there are several pieces of information that can be shared with the people. The total length of the meerkats tends to go up to about 25-35 centimeters in total. This also includes the tail. A very interesting fact about the meerkat is that the measurement of the tail alone is about 17-25 centimeters. Also, the meerkats don’t have bushy fur like the mongoose species as well. The tail of meerkats is very slender and long. Apart from that it also tapers to a reddish or black-colored tip that is often pointed in nature.


The weight of the male meerkats is around 731 grams which are about 1.61 pounds in total. The female meerkats have a weight of about 720 grams and that is about 1.58 pounds in total. When they stand on their legs, the height of the meerkats gets up to about 30 centimeters and that is about 12 inches in total. A very common difference between the appearance of meerkats and mongooses is that meerkats tend to have a more slender build and also they have snouts that are pointed. Most meerkats also have silvery brown skin along with certain dark stripes that are irregular in their body. Also, certain species of meerkats tend to have rumps that run uniquely on each type.

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One interesting thing about the meerkat’s underside is that there are literally no marks there. However, the belly of the meerkat is covered with a patch and that has a growth of hair in it as well. The hair growth is preceded by black skin. This is the area that the meerkats use in order to make sure that the heat is properly absorbed when they are standing on their rear legs. This happens mostly during the early mornings that follow colder nights.


The face color of meerkats is white and there are certain marks around the eyes that are dark in color. These dark markings help in warding off the glare of the sun. The ears of meerkats have a crescent shape and will be able to close properly when they are digging in the earth. This way the sand stays out of the ears.


There are 5 toes on the paws of meerkats which is pretty different from the 4-toed mongooses. The eyes are located right on the front of their faces and hence they have binocular vision just like the cats. Not to mention that they also have a pretty huge peripheral range along with depth perception as well. We hope that these details are able to answer the question of what is a meerkat.


The anatomy of the meerkat says that is a smaller diurnal herpestid. The tail of the meerkat is not really bushy and has a long tapering area that ends with a pointed tail. When they are standing in a vertical position, the meerkat uses the tail to stand properly. The front of the nose is pretty much brown in a meerkat and the eyes also have the ability to close down properly so as to avoid the sand getting in them.


Also, meerkats tend to remove the particles of sand from their eyes by blinking repeatedly. Another important detail that you need to know about the suricate is that there are pretty strong nails present in their paws. The main purpose of these nails is to ensure that they are able to properly break the rocks. It also assists in digging as well. What is even more shocking is that there are 36 incredibly sharp teeth in their jaw that help them in tearing the meat apart in the best way. Due to that, meerkats are not really considered to be ideal options for keeping pets.


Learn Something about Meerkat Personality and Behavior

A very interesting thing about the personality of the meerkat is that they are considered to be burrowing animals. This means they tend to live in underground networks that tend to have certain different entrances. These animals leave during the time of the day. The animals are also considered to be really social because they have colonies of about 40 meerkats living together. In this particular group of meerkats, there will be certain animals that would groom each other in order to strengthen the social bonds that they have.


There is also an alpha pair that is present in the group that will mark the subordinates with their scent in order to express the authority that they have. These actions are then followed by the ritual licking of the alphas by the subordinates. These are some really common behavioral patterns that are seen in meerkats. Also, these actions are commonly practiced when there are certain members of the group that tend to reunite after spending some time apart. An important detail that you wouldn’t want to miss knowing about is that in meerkat groups, the members are often the offspring of the pair that is considered the alpha. This means that most of them are siblings in the groups.


The meerkats are often seen to demonstrate behavior that is altruistic in nature and that too within the colonies that they have. This means that one meerkat or more than one will actually stand on the lookout while the other members of the groups tend to play and forage. The duty of the meerkat on the lookout is to ensure that they give warnings to the groups if there is any danger approaching. When the meerkats spot a predator, they tend to give out a warning bark. Hence, the other members of the gang will run away and seek shelter in the bolt holes or the burrows that they have created.  


The meerkat in the sentry will also be the first animal to appear directly from the burrow and then be on the lookout for predators. They are constantly barking in order to make sure that the other members stay under the ground and safe from danger. In case there is no impending threat, the meerkat in the sentry will then stop the barking, and then the other members will safely emerge from their safe shelter.


Meerkats also have the tendency to babysit the offspring and the young meerkats that are a part of the entire group. A very strange example of this phenomenon is when the female meerkats that have not yet had any offspring of their own tend to start lactating in order to feed the babies of the alpha pairs. The responsibility of protecting the younger generation of meerkats also falls on the others. These meerkats often endanger their lives in order to protect the young.

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The babysitter meerkats are pretty much serious about the duties and hence tend to be the most responsible ones in the entire gang. Here is another important detail. Meerkats tend to engage in different social activities as well. There are often foot races and wrestling matches that happen in the groups of the meerkats as well. Despite having an altruistic behavior that is pretty much normal to the meerkats, they often tend to contradict it as well. An example of it is when they kill the younger members of society. There are certain subordinates in the groups that also tend to kill the offspring of their alphas and the senior members.


Reproduction in Meerkats: What Do You Need To Know?

When we are talking about reproduction in meerkats, there are certain details that you need to know. Meerkats tend to become mature sexually at about one year of their life. On average, meerkats tend to produce three babies in one litter. The wild meerkats that have groups also have 3 different litters in the year. One interesting detail here is that meerkats are iteroparous in nature and they are able to properly reproduce any particular time of the year. However, most of the births of the meerkats tend to happen in the summer seasons when the climate is a bit warmer. Various reports tend to shed some light on the pre-copulatory display of meerkats. In this system, the male meerkats would have fights with the females and that lasts till the female submits. Then the process of copulation will start. The period of gestation is about eleven weeks; the birth of the offspring happens in the burrows.


The ears of young meerkats take about 10 days to open up in total. The eyes take 14 days to open up and the young are weaned in about 49 to 63 days in total. However, until 3 weeks, the young meerkats will not be allowed to come out of their burrows.


Meerkat Habitat: Important Information about Where They Live

The most common habitat of meerkats is the African continent and that too in the regions that have sandy desert. The main habitat of the meerkat tends to be in the Kalahari desert. This is a desert that is located in Botswana.

 

Also, the deserts that tend to cover up the Namibia area also known as the habitat of meerkats. In these deserts, there are certain subspecies of meerkats that are known as desert meerkats. Although in these regions there is also the existence of the South African Meerkats too. Apart from that, there is a third subspecies of meerkats that is known as the Angolan Meerkat. This type of meerkat is located in Angola and hence it gets the name from there.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Write Some Details about the Physical Characteristics of Meerkats.

The total length of the meerkats tends to go up to about 25-35 centimeters in total. This also includes the tail. The measurement of the tail alone is about 17-25 centimeters. Also, the meerkats don’t have bushy fur like the mongoose species as well. The tail of meerkats is very slender and long. Apart from that it also tapers to a reddish or black-colored tip that is often pointed in nature. The weight of the male meerkats is around 731 grams which are about 1.61 pounds in total. The female meerkats have a weight of about 720 grams and that is about 1.58 pounds in total.

2. Where Does the Meerkat Animal Live?

Meerkats tend to have the African continent as their main habitat along with some other regions as well. These are the regions that have sandy deserts for the meerkats to dig their burrows in. Hence, they are mostly situated in those areas. The area of Kalahari deserts and Namibia is known to be the main habitat of meerkats these days. In these deserts, there are certain subspecies of meerkats that are known as desert meerkats. Although in these regions there is also the existence of the South African Meerkats too. Apart from that, there is a third subspecies of meerkats that is known as the Angolan Meerkat. This type of meerkat is located in Angola and hence it gets the name from there.

3. What Do We Know about Meerkat Personality?

Meerkats are considered to be burrowing animals. These animals leave during the time of the day. The animals are also considered to be really social because they have colonies of about 40 meerkats living together. There are meerkats that would groom each other in order to strengthen the social bonds within the group. The meerkats are often seen to demonstrate behavior that is altruistic in nature and that too within the colonies that they have. When the meerkats spot a predator, they tend to give out a warning bark. Hence, the other members of the gang will run away and seek shelter in the bolt holes or the burrows that they have created.